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Hemingway Adventure

Chicago, Illinois (first day)

Chicago, Illinois, USA 
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Crossing the Chicago River, leaving behind the glossy corporate skyscrapers on the less than glossy train to Oak Park.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureAt the end of the summer of 1920, things went sour in north Michigan. Ernest fell out with his mother and never went back to live at Oak Park. He spent a winter in Petoskey and then moved into a tiny apartment he shared with his friend Bill Horne at 1230 North State Street, Chicago.

‘It was the kind with a washstand in the corner and a bath down the hall,’ Horne recalled. And it’s where I’m standing today. Except that the handsome, if slightly run-down row of crumbly sandstone façades where he lived has been sliced in half and the number 1230 now adorns the marquee of a soaring modern apartment block.

Somehow this seems to symbolise the transitory nature of Hemingway’s relationship with the city of Chicago. Oak Park was the comfortable, settled, family home, north Michigan the great outdoors where he learnt all sorts of ropes, but Chicago was a way station between home and freedom, youth and adulthood, America and Europe.

In a typical stream of consciousness letter to his fourth wife, Mary, in 1945, Hemingway came as close as he ever did to paying a compliment to the city.

I remember always how exciting it was when I was a kid and the Art Institute where I first saw pictures and made feel truly what they tried to make you feel falsely with religion and the old South State Street whorehouse district ... and Hinky Dink’s the longest bar in the world ... and further back going with my grandfather to the theater in the afternoons ... and hot nights along the lake when I was poor in the summer after the war and the boarding houses and tenements we used to live in and when had money able to send out to the chinamens for lovely food.

Chicago today amply fulfils my criterion of a great city, that is one which becomes more exciting the nearer you get to the centre.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Chicago, Illinois (first day)
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Chicago, Illinois
  • Book page no: 33

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